Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

GolfBuddy Voice

With the GolfBuddy Voice, GolfBuddy brings its marketing and distribution muscle into the new realm of voice-enabled golf GPS devices. The Voice is able to leverage GolfBuddy’s experience with dedicated handheld devices, including its exceptional course coverage and mapping of the edges of each green edge, which enables the device to provide distances to the near, center and far points on the green relative to player position.

The device is small and light, and comes with a clip to attach to brim of a cap, shirt, or belt. The Voice will speak the distance at a touch of a button – the default is the distance to the center of the green, but pressing and holding down the main button will cycle through distances to the near and far points of the green. It was nice to have the additional information available, but the awkward interface deterred our review staff from taking the time to find the near and far green distances unless it was absolutely necessary.

The GolfBuddy Voice not only speaks yardages, but also include a small screen where players can visually obtain distances and see a rough graphic of the shape of the green. While the display provides some advantages, such as providing access to the par score for the hole, our conclusion was that if we were going to take the time to bring the display into a position to see the information, we would likely prefer either a watch or a non-voice golf GPS device that had more features. The list of features for the Voice is pretty short, though it does include auto-hole advance and shot distance tracking.

The GolfBuddy Voice retails for $199.99, and while there are no additional fees for access to the course database, this price point puts it within striking distance of golf GPS watches and handheld golf GPS devices with more functionality. Voice-enabled devices may yet become significant in the market, but based on the units we’ve tested to date, no one has fully cracked the code yet.

SCORE
84
GRADE
B
Setup/Syncing
80
Course Availability
100
Ease of Use
89
Course Details
82
Features
84
Accuracy
86
Cost/Value
85

Pros:

  • Exceptional course coverage
  • Distances to near, center and far points of the green based on player position

Cons:

  • Very limited features
  • Unless you just want one distance, arguably not as quick and easy-to-use as a watch or dedicated device clipped to a belt or in a pocket
  • Green graphic images can be inaccurate

Retail price: $199.99
Three year total cost: $199.99
Availability: Replaced by the GolfBuddy VT3
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


75 / B

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: The GolfBuddy Voice has courses pre-loaded on the device. The screen will flash while charging and turn off when finished.

The Bad: We still aren’t fans of the GolfBuddy registration process, which requires a barrage of information in order to set up your (free) account. The time to sync courses is longer than for most devices.

Details:

  • Required Steps. Courses come pre-loaded on the GolfBuddy Voice, but you’ll eventually want to download the free GolfBuddy Course Manager to keep updated with the latest course maps. Upon initial setup just select the language and you are good to go.
    • Download the GolfBuddy Course Manager software (see below) from the GolfBuddy web site. The download and installation takes but a minute or two.
    • Upon launching the Course Manager software, you’ll be prompted to login. If you don’t have an account yet, you will be taken to the registration page, on which GolfBuddy requires you to submit a number of pieces of information that no user should have to provide just to use a golf GPS device, including home address and phone and birthday. We’ll leave you to guess whether we answered any of those fields truthfully (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!).
  • Time Required for Setup. After walking through the GolfBuddy Course Manager registration process, we weren’t able to update the device. After getting in touch with GolfBuddy technical support, which took another 10 minutes or so, we were able to update the firmware, copy and load the necessary files, which took another 10 minutes.

What’s in the Box: The GolfBuddy Voice GPS (with hat/shirt clip attached) comes with:

  • Micro USB cable
  • AC adapter
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Protective silicon case
  • Warranty Card

Downloads (required):


100 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: GolfBuddy has rapidly improved their course database since our tests first began. Additional course coverage improvements in 2012 bring the GolfBuddy Voice to 100% in our course coverage test. Congrats, GolfBuddy!!

Manufacturer’s Claims: GolfBuddy claims a course database of approximately 17,900 courses in the United States (right at the top), and 34,500 Worldwide (tops). This places the GolfBuddy Voice at tops of the field in worldwide course coverage.


89 / B+

EASE OF USE

The Good: Small and light.

The Bad: We can’t cycle through distances as quickly as we would like, and when doing so, the order is center-near-far. We didn’t find having a small screen plus voice capability to be a useful combination.

GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device
Click for more images

Details:

  • Buttons. The GolfBuddy Voice has five buttons: one main button on the front, power and position mark buttons on the left side, and volume/selection buttons on the right side.
  • Screen. Though tiny in size, the GolfBuddy Voice still has a display to provide information – the only voice golf GPS device to do so.
  • Form Factor. With the clip on the device, you can attach the GolfBuddy Voice to the brim of a cap, a shirt collar, or a belt. As with the Matrix SHOTMATE, the thickness of the Voice makes it pretty noticeable when it’s clipped to a cap – we wound up clipping it on our belt. There is USB cable access on the top right corner of the device for charging, updating courses and upgrading device firmware. The clip and speaker are on the back of the device.
  • Starting a Round. To start a round users need only to turn on the Voice, and the device will begin acquiring satellites and locating the nearest course. The Voice will only allow you to start play if you are at a course (the course name will not be provided), so there isn’t the ability to test the device when there is no signal or you aren’t at a golf course. Compared side-by-side with the full-featured GolfBuddy Platinum, the GolfBuddy Voice was able to start a round just a bit faster. The Voice will notify you when it has located the course, and if you are not on the tee box, it will instruct you to proceed there. Hole and distance information will be displayed only once you have arrived at the tee box.
  • Battery Life. GolfBuddy claims 9 hours of life from the internal rechargeable battery. Based on our tests this is fairly accurate, so you may be able to get in a couple of rounds without recharging. Sadly on the public courses where we frequently play, 9 hours often doesn’t get you through two rounds.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS ease of use.


82 / B-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: In addition to the distance to the center of the green, the GolfBuddy Voice also provides the yardages to the near and far edges of the green. Note that the latter two aren’t the front and back of the green relative to the tee box; rather, the far and near edges change based on exactly where on the hole you are standing. It may seem a small detail, but it is a big advantage to have the entire green edge mapped.

The Bad: The green images shown on the green view screen were often not accurate enough to be useful. And as with all devices that are limited to green information, we found ourselves craving distances to hazards.

GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device
Click for larger image

Details:

  • Views. The GolfBuddy Voice has two main screens: Hole View and Green View. Distances will be provided until the player is within approximately 10 yards of the edge of the green.
    • Hole View –The Hole View is the default screen at the beginning of each hole, and provides a small graphic of a generic green (this is NOT intended to accurately depict the shape of the actual green) with a point at the bottom, center or top of the graphic. The location of the point indicates the distance that is being shown on this screen – if it’s at the top, then the indicated distance is to the far edge of the green, if at the bottom, then the indicated
      GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device
      Click for more images

      distance is to the near edge of the green, and if in the middle, it’s to the center of the green. Pressing and holding the main button for a couple of seconds will cycle the device, moving from the default distance to the center to the near edge and then the far edge of the green. Also included on this screen is the battery life remaining, and the symbol “M” will appear if the player has selected meters instead of yards as the unit of distance.

      GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device
      Click for more images
    • Green View – The Green View provides a rough graphic of the actual shape of the green, which will rotate based on player position. Also included on this screen are the par score for the hole, the satellite strength, and, if playing a hole with multiple greens, an indicator of whether the information displayed is for the left or right green (users can toggle between the two). The Green View is displayed after pressing the “main” button.
  • Hole Information. The hole number is announced each time a distance is given so you can be confident that you are receiving distances to the correct green without needing to refer to the display. On both the Hole and Green View screens the hole number is displayed on the left of the display. Par information is included on the Green View screen only.

84 / B

FEATURES

The Good: It speaks! And it also has a display, although it’s pretty small (1 inch x 0.5 inches).

The Bad: No ability to track scores or statistics.

Details:

  • Voice. If you’re reading this review we probably don’t even need to mention this feature. The device can announce the hole being played, distances to the center, near and far edges of the green, shot distances (see below) and the time.
  • GolfBuddy Voice Golf GPS Device
    Click for larger image
  • Shot Distances. Shot distances are tracked by first pressing the “P” button on the side of the device, then the main button. You can watch the measured distance change as you walk well past your buddies’ drives, mocking them as you go, but for whatever reason, the distance will only increase in increments of 6 yards at a time. You can switch back to either the Hole or Green View, but once you do so, you won’t be able to switch back to the screen that displays the shot distance without ending the measurement. Once you arrive at your ball, pressing the “P” button again will complete the measurement, announce the distance, and freeze the distance on the screen – in calculating the final distance, the GolfBuddy Voice will give the actual distance with no limitation on 6 yard increments.
  • Score and Statistics. The GolfBuddy Voice doesn’t have the ability to track scores or statistics.
  • Auto-advance. The Voice will automatically advance to the next hole once the user arrives at the tee box, and will announce when it has advanced.
  • Course Storage. All courses in the GolfBuddy Voice database come pre-loaded, and GolfBuddy claims up be able to store up to 40,000 in total.
  • Preferences. In addition to the language selected at startup, the Voice has three settings: yards/meters, volume control, and left/right green (for holes with multiple greens).

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


86 / B

ACCURACY

The GolfBuddy Voice generally provided distances accurate to within 4 yards, although we had difficulty verifying distances to the near and far points of the green as the device no longer provides distances, either by voice or on the display, once the player has reached the green edge (defined as approximately 10 yards from the edge of the green).

We did notice that there was often a yardage difference between the GolfBuddy Voice and the GolfBuddy Platinum, which we were testing during the same round. We found the GolfBuddy Voice to both be slightly less accurate, and often take more time to lock on to a correct reading (on one occasion we saw the GolfBuddy Voice take up to a full minute longer to lock into an accurate reading). GolfBuddy must be using the same course maps for both devices, so we presume that the disparity is caused by differences in the hardware.


85 / B

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: With a retail price of $199.99, the GolfBuddy Voice is one of the least expensive GPS devices tested, though there are a number of dedicated devices with displays and hazard information that are available for less. Of the voice golf GPS units on the market, it is the least expensive.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional cost for access to the database for new courses or updates, the three-year total cost of ownership of the GolfBuddy Voice GPS remains at $199.99, placing it in the least expensive third of devices in our comparison of golf GPS device total costs.

Value: While the device has one of the lower prices for a golf GPS device, it is a “tweener” in the market – it doesn’t provide the hazard data available in less expensive devices (such as the Bushnell neo+ or IZZO 3000 devices), and it lacks the functionality of the more feature-rich devices that we have come to appreciate. The primary differentiator is voice, and whether you value that feature will exclusively determine whether you like this device.

Although the display will provide the hole, par, and green graphic, we didn’t find much value in it. The whole point of a voice-enabled golf GPS device seems to be avoiding looking at a display. If we are going to look at a display at all, we would just as well turn to a different device such as a watch, which has a more accessible form factor and display, and can provide additional hazard information and other functionality that that the GolfBuddy Voice doesn’t possess.



  • Richiehall1

    I have a Golf Buddie voice and it has helped me immensely It gives you confidence in selecting the correct club for every shot you are about to take. I have had it for 1 week and already my game has improved just listening to the yardage confirms my eyes what distance I am from the green. I have 1 question the quick link is great to get you started but I cannot set the time on the gadget I was hoping that maybe someone could enlighten me as to how to set the time as when I press the P button and hold it does nothing and shows some wiered icons on the display it is not important for my game but I dont wear a watch and I always no matter what leave my phone in the car some places are sacred and definately the golf course is one sacred place, please can anyone assist me.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      You should be able to set the time by pressing and holding the “P” button to first see the time, then pressing and holding the Main button on the front of the Voice.
      Additional details may be found via the GolfBuddy Voice manual.

      • Ginny Kmak

        That does not work for me. I turn the voice on ,hit the P and nothing comes up but something I cannot read.

  • Owens5794

    I love, love, love my Golf Buddy Voice; it’s faster than any hand held device and just as accurate!  I clip it on my visor and never know it’s there until I press the button.  Why anyone would bother to take the time to take a device out of their bag, focus it on the flag and return it to their bag is beyond me when this option is available for probably less money.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Thanks for the comments. It is indeed a strong benefit of the voice and gps watches to be able to access information so quickly.
      Curious if you ever refer to the image of the green on the Voice screen, and if you toggle between NCF green points when getting readings? Or do you generally leave the Voice clipped to the visor and focus on center of green only for distance readings?

  • William Murdick

    I just ordered one for $125, free shipping and no tax. That seems to be the online street price at this time. I want the voice partly because I have trouble reading scratched up screens in the daylight. And I don’t like to have to dig out my reading glasses for extra magnification. I had a Guru (just lost it) and there were times when I put it away because I literally could not find an angle in the sun or the shade of my hand where I could read the screen. Furthermore, as small as the Voice screen may be, the distance number displayed is a lot larger than the tiny number on the screen of my Golf Guru.

  • Boram Lee

    I think “Voice Caddie” brings its marketing and distribution muscle into the new realm of voice-enabled golf GPS devices. That’s the first voice-guided golf GPS in wholeworld. Please review it “Voice Caddie”

  • TimTam

    I’m enjoying my Golf Buddy except I have to manually change holes when I don’t pass close enough to the men’s tee. Annoying. . . . . .

  • Mark My Word

    Fully charged my new GB then let it sit for 6 days before playing. The battery went south after 11 holes — about 3 hours. What happened to the other 6 hours?